A homeless Detroit man bought an abandoned house for $1,500 and spent 10 years renovating it for his wife. Here's how he did it - and what it looks like now.
- In 2009, Michael Gray, a native Detroiter, bought an abandoned home from his nephew for just $1,500. He moved in as soon as he bought it.
- Prior to purchasing the home, Gray told Business Insider that he was homeless and living in his niece's basement.
- In 2010, he began a nearly 10-year renovation process and transformed the home room by room.
- In an interview with Business Insider, Gray explained how he turned the home into a livable space for both him and his wife.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Michael Gray is a native Detroiter.At 67 years old, he spends his weekdays working as a machinist in Bowling Green, Ohio and his weekends at his home in Detroit with his wife Cynthia. Advertisement
Prior to purchasing the home, Gray was living in his niece's basement. He told Business Insider that he was homeless and that despite having a college degree, he was unable to find work in Detroit.Gray told Business Insider that after getting hit by a car in 2008, he used some of the settlement money to buy the property. He moved in the day he bought it with nothing but an air mattress to sleep on. At the time, the home was in bad shape. According to Gray, it was infested with mites, spiders, and mice - not even the toilet worked.
Now, nearly a decade later, the home is unrecognizable. He chronicled the home's transformation in photographs and compiled the photos in two hard-copy albums, which he mailed to Business Insider. In a phone interview with Business Insider, he explained the work that went into renovating his home.Do you have a similar home-renovation story? If you want to share your story, email this reporter at email@example.com. Advertisement
Michael Gray's house is located in Detroit, Michigan right outside of the University District. It's around one mile from the University of Detroit.
Gray documented the entire renovation process in two large photo albums, which he mailed to Business Insider.Advertisement
He bought the house in 2009 for $1,500 from his nephew, Sylvester, who is a broker for Global Property Investment Group, a commercial real-estate agency.
Sylvester told Business Insider that his office buys real estate, sells real estate, renovates properties, and rents properties.Advertisement
Global Property Investment Group acquires properties from a variety of different sources including asset managers, the Detroit Land Bank Authority, and the Wayne County Tax Auction, according to Sylvester. When properties don't fit into the company's business model, they are sold to independent purchasers, which is how Gray came across the house.
Gray told Business Insider that he's been living in the house since the day he bought it and that he started renovating it in April 2010.Advertisement
When he first moved in, the house was infested with mites, spiders, and mice.
He wasn't even able to use the toilet. "The plumbing wasn't working. We were not able to use the toilet at all," he told Business Insider.Advertisement
He slept on an air mattress upstairs and started renovating the house room by room.
Prior to buying the house, Gray told Business Insider that he was homeless.Advertisement
"I had been going through a rough time in my life," he explained. "I was staying with my niece and sleeping in her basement."
Even with a college degree, Gray told Business Insider that he wasn't able to find a job in Detroit.Advertisement
But in 2008, his life changed. While riding his bike, he was hit by a car. Using money from the settlement he received from the accident, Gray was able to purchase the house.
His wife, Cynthia, who at the time was his fiancé, was there through it all. "My wife had been with me through thick and thin and I told her that I was going to give her a house that she would be really proud to keep, live in, and show off," he said.Advertisement
When describing the renovation project, Gray called it a complete rehab. "I tore everything out, all the way down to the studs," he explained.
Gray said he did around 80% of the labor himself, including the flooring and the painting. His vision was to "make it a family home forever."Advertisement
He learned how to do most of the work during his time as an administrative assistant for a construction management company in Michigan.
And, for the work he couldn't do himself, his friends, who were qualified to do the work, lent a helping hand.Advertisement
They helped him install, along with other things, the drywall, the electrical box, a new furnace, a hot water tank, and central air.
Gray told Business Insider that the hardest part of the renovation process was fixing the broken beams in the ceilings.Advertisement
On the flip side, he said the easiest part was the tiling. "It was hard work, but I enjoyed doing the tiling because if you put a lot of love into what you do, your floors reflect a lot of who you are," he said.
The major parts of the renovation process were completed in July of 2012. However, Gray told Business Insider that he is constantly improving the home; at the moment, he's working on upgrading the basement. He plans on finishing it by next year.Advertisement
When he neared the completion of each room, Gray would stain, sand, and polish everything. "She [Cynthia] had picked out the paint she wanted for each room and, after the drywall went up, I put the primer on and painted. I was closing out the rooms as we completed them," he explained to Business Insider.
Cynthia was in charge of decorating.Advertisement
"That was for her. She shopped 'til she couldn't walk anymore," he told Business Insider.
The now home has three bedrooms and one bathroom.Advertisement
There could be four bedrooms, but they decided to convert one of the rooms into a walk-in closet.
Here's a close-up of the newly renovated crawl space. So far, Gray told Business Insider that he has invested around $70,000 into the home.Advertisement
Gray currently works as a machinist in Bowling Green, Ohio. During the week, he lives there in an apartment. He joins his wife Cynthia at their home in Detroit on the weekends.
On November 2, they celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary.Advertisement
- Assam breaches 500-mark in COVID-19 cases, 147 new infections
- Rajasthan eases lockdown norms, allows taxis, auto rickshaws to operate in red zones
- Bihar reports 163 fresh COVID cases, tally climbs to 2,737
- UP records 8 more COVID-related deaths; 229 fresh cases take tally to 6,497
- Nitish asks people to send positive vibes to those under quarantine